Nuclear energy as a zero-carbon solution
July 26, 2019
The immensely popular television series Chernobyl has brought back into memory the dangers of nuclear power and reminds us of the effects that nuclear disaster can have. Having occurred over 30 years ago, the Chernobyl nuclear incident changed the way we look at nuclear energy today. The subsequent Fukushima nuclear power plant incident in 2011 reinforced the negative stigma surrounding the technology.
Nuclear energy, however, is generally considered to be a safe, reliable, and clean source of energy. The Chernobyl and Fukushima incidents were, in large part, preventable and lessons learned from each of these events have made the technology even safer today. Safety systems in existing plants, as well as the newest (fourth generation) reactors being built today were all extensively tested and evaluated to make sure that no incident such as those would take place again.
Despite the stigma, and the risks, there are many benefits to nuclear power. Frankly, there are risks in power generation regardless of the type of power plant it is. The extreme consequences of nuclear disaster, however, seem to blind many to the safeguards and the environmental benefits nuclear energy has to offer.
Nuclear energy is a completely carbon-free method of generating electricity. The big towers associated with nuclear power plants billowing white puffy clouds aren’t releasing anything other than water vapour. Many nuclear power plants have been running incident free for decades with capacity factors of over 90%. This makes these plants extremely reliable and a prime source of base-load energy.
With increased safety measures do come increased costs, however, nuclear energy remains competitive, even when the costs of waste storage and disposal are factored in on top of construction and operational cost. With little new nuclear capacity coming online, signs are pointing to a rapid decline in nuclear capacity as older plants reach the end of their service lives, though there is still a place for the technology for many years to come.